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It's San Francisco in 1957, and an American masterpiece is put on trial. Howl, the film, recounts this dark moment using three interwoven threads: the tumultuous life events that led a young Allen Ginsberg to find his true voice as an artist, society's reaction (the obscenity trial), and animation that echoes the poem's surreal style. All three coalesce in hybrid that dramatizes the birth of a counterculture. Written by
Sundance Film Festival
"Howl" for Carl Salomon. I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix, angel-headed hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night...
[continues reading but unheard, credits roll]
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I was lucky to watch this movie at the Athens Film Festival last Saturday and, despite its occasional flaws, I loved it. Ginsberg is fairly known to Greece , though most people (myself included) got to know him through his connection with Dylan. In that sense, I wasn't familiar with HOWL or the obscenity trial. For me , the movie's main attraction is the fact that it is not a biopic but a study on the creation of poetry, the power and magic of the words, the creator's struggle for genuineness through a dark path of madness and sexual frustration. The film is an unusual blend of poetry recitation, psychedelic animation, a graphic dramatization of Ginsberg's interview and a straight-forward dramatization of the trial.Some of them work fine and some not. Franco catches the right spirit of a young poet striving to find his way of expression and he is magnetic both in the recitation and in the interview scenes.The trial scenes , though well acted, seemed a little flat to me as compared to the vibrant tone that the poem itself imposes to the film . The animation was a bit uneven , in cases great (the Moloch section was terrific) , in cases indifferent and sometimes, for me, annoying. Apart from those parts that didn't work for me to the extend that I expected , the film is a unique docudrama, a magnificent and courageous ode to the power of words and the freedom of speech and a great depiction of the personal struggle of an artist to be truthful to himself.
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